Derrell previously served as the executive director at Better Education for Kids. At B4K, Derrell worked to secure passage of the tenure reform legislation TEACH NJ. B4K’s advocacy also led to electoral victories for reform-minded candidates across the state. Prior to B4K, Derrell spent nine years with New Jersey’s Excellent Education for Everyone (E3) as director of communications and then executive director. While there he also served on the state’s Educator Effectiveness Task Force.
Derrell frequently contributes to education debates in print, digital, radio and TV media. He serves on several boards dedicated to putting the needs of students and families first, including Success Academy Charter Schools, EdBuild, The Partnership for Educational Justice, NACSA and The Parent Coalition for Excellent Education. He is a former board member of We Can Do Better New Jersey and St. Anthony High School in Jersey City. A native of Baltimore, Derrell attended the St. Paul’s School for Boys and the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a bachelor’s degree in English.
I aspire to be like Neo from The Matrix. Here’s why:
You’d have to be asleep, plugged into the big machine not to see that there is a crisis in American education. It affects low-income and minority kids the most, but it also creates conditions that diminish opportunity and freedom for everyone.
Education “wakes you up.” It unplugs you. I want that for everyone.
Why I love my job:
I feel passionately about a lot of things, but nothing engages me more than working to make sure every kid has the same chance I did to attend a great school or have a great teacher. I won the school lottery as a kid. My opportunities and the people who taught me filled me up. I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than pursuing that end for all kids.
My connection to public schools:
There is a promise about education in this country; we tell kids that we’ll give them one but in too many instances all we give them is a seat in a place called school. “Public school” needs to be about the goal — that every kid gets a fair shot at a quality education regardless of who their parents are — not about who runs the schools.
What I’m bad at:
Is this a trick question? Too many things to enumerate here, I assure you.
The image that represents why I work at 50CAN:
This red house is where I spent most of my nights as a kid. My family loved me, but it’s a long way from this corner in southwest Baltimore to college. I know the role school played in my life. I won’t let anyone tell me what education can’t do for our kids.